When things are going as planned, you have the resources you need, and your team is in sync with one another, leadership can be smooth sailing.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things always go. A real test of your leadership comes when things go south.
A failed project, low sales, lack of support from other departments, or team members who can’t seem to get along are just a few of the things that leaders have to face at one point or another.
Are you up to the challenge? Can you be a great leader when things are at their worst, and your team needs real guidance?
Of course, you can. The following strategies will help you to keep your team motivated and moving forward no matter what:
1. Don’t Allow Failure to Breed Fear
When things are going poorly, many leaders begin making decisions out of fear. That’s understandable, but it’s absolutely the wrong path to take.
Fear-based decision-making leads to a lack of growth and innovation. Things stagnate.
When your team is struggling and you aren’t getting the outcomes that you desire, it’s imperative to find a way through.
This means creativity, investing in your team, and making bold decisions. No leader has ever helped their team through hard times by letting fear paralyze them.
2. Model Accountability
When your team is struggling or they’re trying to bounce back from a failure, your team is looking to you for guidance. The things that you say and do in those moments will become the things that they say and do.
How you treat them is how they will treat one another.
This is your chance to model accountability. If you focus on your own accountability for the team’s success as a whole, your people will focus on their own accounts as well.
Let them know what you should have done differently and will do differently in the future.
This will lead to people being less defensive and more willing to examine and discuss what they need to change. You’ll also see less focus on assigning blame.
3. Remind Team Members of What is Being Learned
A good leader won’t gloss over failures or losses. It’s important to not just acknowledge when things are bad but also to point out the very real costs of those failures. That might include loss of revenue or disappointed customers.
At the same time, it’s just as important to be clear about what is being learned during hard times.
For example, there’s nothing like failure to help identify policies and procedures that need to be changed. They can also teach people how to better anticipate potential problems.
4. Identify Roadblocks to Team Members’ Success
A team can only be successful if each member has the tools and resources they need in order to do their jobs correctly.
They must also remain motivated and feel as if their contributions are meaningful and appreciated. Good leaders keep in close contact with all team members.
A great leader will keep the following questions in mind when they communicate with members of their team:
- What is your biggest source of frustration?
- Do you have the skills required to execute what has been asked of you successfully?
- Are you feeling demoralized, overworked, or unappreciated?
- Are you receiving the cooperation and support you need from your leader and your team members?
- What tools or training could make doing your job easier?
- Do you have the time to do what is expected of you?
- In the role that you are currently in, do you feel as if your talents are being utilized as they should be?
Another important consideration is delegation. Are your team members struggling because they are taking on tasks that are better outsourced or delegated?
Jobs such as translating documents, filing, data entry, and other administrative tasks should be subject to delegation if that means people are better able to use their talents.
5. Communicate Clearly
Difficult times bring doubt and uncertainty. Even if you’re very confident that you communicate your team’s values, missions, goals, and expectations clearly, it may be time to redouble your efforts.
This is when people need true guidance when it comes to identifying the next steps to take.
It isn’t enough to clearly communicate expectations and goals. You must also be very transparent about the current situation and the potential risks at hand.
Don’t obscure the truth in order to create a temporary sense of calm and safety.
Whether there’s a risk of layoffs, potential loss of a client, or some other crisis that could be looming, be upfront about it.
You can overcome failure. You’ll never overcome dishonesty or allow people to be blindsided.
6. Go to Bat for Your People
There may be nothing that breeds confidence in leadership more than your willingness to go to bat for your team.
The unfortunate truth is that if your team is struggling, they become easy targets for those outside of the team to blame, criticize, and scapegoat.
Worse, the powers that be may resist providing needed resources to a team that is currently underperforming. This, of course, leads to continued underperformance. Your job is to be their advocate in the face of that.
This doesn’t mean you deny issues or that you don’t take action when it comes to employees that need to be placed on notice (or worse).
It means that you don’t allow your people to become convenient sources of blame for the shortcomings of other teams.
It also means that you voice your confidence in them as well as demand that they have the resources they need to be successful.
Most importantly, it means taking ownership of failures as the leader in the face of those outside of your team.
If you can provide effective and supportive leadership during difficult times, you will earn the appreciation and respect of your team.
After all, these are the times when your true leadership abilities will be put to the test.
By following the strategies above, you can help ensure that struggles are short-lived and that your team remains encouraged.
How Can You Lead in Hard Times?
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